Should Restaurants Charge Parents a “Baby Tax”?

Two mothers in the UK are outraged after an all-you-can-eat buffet in England charged them extra for bringing along a baby

Photography by Caitlin Regan, via Flickr (CC)

Two mothers in the UK are outraged after an all-you-can-eat buffet in Croydon, England, charged them £3 (or around $5) because they’d brought newborn babies to the restaurant, according to a report by Yahoo! Canada. The incidents occurred on separate visits, but each time the story was the same: the mother in question explained that her baby was exclusively breastfed and would not be eating any food at the restaurant, or taking up an extra seat, yet restaurant staff refused to remove the charge from the bill.

Natasha Young, whose son was six weeks old at the time, told the London Evening Standard, “[The restaurant] was full but I had booked a table. When I got there they said I have to pay for the baby even though he does not eat. I was told he was taking up space.” The restaurant issued an official apology via its website, and noted that “The Minimum Charge Policy is intended for toddlers who eat, but not as much as a child. It was and never will be intended as a charge for prams or for babies.”

The incident has obviously hit a nerve with parents who already feel unwelcome in restaurants and other spaces that aren’t always so “baby-friendly.” But Adriana Velez of The Stir offers a different perspective: “This is obviously not about space,” she says. “This is about the general inconvenience of wee ones.” Velez goes on to talk about the potential mess that babies can create, the strollers that other patrons trip over and the crying that can disrupt other diners—all points that have come up before in debates over whether or not babies should be “banned” from certain establishments.

What do you think? Should parents have to pay a special tax because restaurant staff and other patrons are “inconvenienced” by babies?

8 responses to “Should Restaurants Charge Parents a “Baby Tax”?”

  1. Absolutely not! This is just another example of a lack of understanding of what customer service is all about. An all-you-can-eat hardly sound like a quiet, candle-lit romantic ambience where patrons will be finding babies distracting. Family-style restaurants should be tripping over themsleves to please their clientele. I will assume it’s family style if they went to the trouble of havng a toddler price.). They should also realize that parents who enjoy their experience out with their kids because the staff have been attentive and/or understanding are likely to come back again & again. Good service+good food=quality experience=repeat business=customer loyalty=positive word of mouth. $3 Baby tax? Hardly an intelligent move. They might consider hosting a free lunch day for breastfeeding moms and offer their best service possible …and if they can keep it up after the event-THAT would earn them the loyalty AND the big bucks.

  2. Katrin says:

    If parents bring their babies into a restaurant where it is more adult geared like Ruby Tuesday’s or Panera, they should get a tax, especially if the baby cries. That is a disruption to people’s peace and quiet. People pay for their food and want some quiet while they enjoy their meal, they don’t need to hear a baby crying. Plus some people may want a night out away from kids, they don’t need to hear kids crying So yes I would say invoke a tax. May make parents think twice before bringing their infants to the restaurant.

  3. Restaurants cant be rude to charge a baby tax..It is being insane..

  4. SjP says:

    I think its insane that a tax like that could even be legal. So does that mean there is also going to be a tax for people who bring in handicapped family members or friends because other people at the restaurant might trip over their wheelchairs, or what about people with mental handicaps or disorders, or an elderly person who might drop food on the ground or be loud will get taxed too because that certainly isn’t legal. I have an almost 1 year old and he like to babble and might even throw some Cheerios on the ground but its a restaurant where they serve food, thats the name of the game! Are you also going to tax people who are klutzy and spill their drink, or a little loud. Lets get real! Its a restaurant, I don’t care if its starbucks, panera, mcdonalds, or a 5 star seafood restaurant, if you are going to charge me extra to bring my child with me I would never EVER go there again. Absolutely absurd!

  5. Jessica says:

    If the restaurant has a kids menu & high chairs/booster seats available (like Ruby Tuesday) then either be okay with kids/babies being there or find a new restaurant.

  6. Elexis says:

    Sure, restaurants can charge “fees” like this.

    However, I can decide that I’ll never eat at their establishment again. I can also decide to send a letter to their home office if they are a franchise.

  7. bunny says:

    That ”tax” is a cheap ploy that only profits the restaurants who apply it.

  8. pgwstbrk says:

    This is a really touchy subject and I can certainly understand why.

    I don’t feel as though it’s necessary to tack on baby tax for parents with newborns or babies who are too young to dine in restaurants. But as a server and member of the restaurant industry, I do have personal qualms when children arrive with parents to “dine out”.

    There have been a number of occasions in which families will show up, request a table of six for the parents and their four children, then they get two meals and share everything with the kids. That is wrong and if thats how you’re going to play the game then you should expect to pay an addition $5 per head for occupying an additional four seats that could be occupied by paying customers.

    I’ve also seen parents allowing their children to walk on tabletops–kicking off cups and various other things, which is completely unacceptable. If you are bringing your children to a restaurant, they should be well versed in restaurant etiquette, otherwise they have no business dining out.